Archive for the ‘Other Authors’ Category
Claire Fitzpatrick is a writer, an editor, all-round awesome human being. Recently, she launched Oscillate Wildly Press .
We caught up on good ol’ Facebook recently whereupon I asked Claire some questions and invited her to respond to a statement. This is what happened …
Pete: What led you to creating your own publishing press and what are its goals?
Claire: In early 2015 my novel was accepted by a small North American publishing company. Naturally, I was elated. Over time, I worked with two editors, and the novel went through various stages of evolution. However, a few months ago, I found out the publishing company had closed, without any warning, or correspondence to me.
Pete: Ugh! I am truly sorry to hear that!
Claire: I was furious. I didn’t want to let all that hard work go to waste. Time passed, and I started looking for potential publishers for ‘The Body Horror Book,’ another project I am working on, and when I couldn’t find one I thought best matched the project, I realised I could just publish it myself. At this time, I started thinking about my novel again, and instead of giving up, I decided to create my own company, and proceed with publishing my book as well as ‘The Body Horror Book.’ Of course, I could have simply self-published it, but I realised there was potential for a new small publisher in Australia, and that I would have the support from the Australian Horror Writer’s Association.
I am a massive fan of The Smiths (I have a framed poster of Morrissey and Marr in my lounge room with Johnny Marr’s guitar pick he personally handed to me!) and I wanted to incorporate something from my obsession into the publishing press. I chose ‘Oscillate Wildly,’ as it is a pun from Morrissey’s enigmatic hero, and also the song was recorded without lyrics as Morrissey believed the song could stand on its own. This idea of a song standing on its own motivated me, and gave me the courage that I didn’t need my former publisher to release a successful book. I hunted around for a few editors-people I 100% trusted-and with that Oscillate Wildly Press was born!
Its goals are simple! I’m planning to focus on anthologies, and release perhaps one or two novels a year. Nothing big, nothing overwhelming. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself or my little team. 50% of royalties will go to authors who choose to publish with us, as a book is part of someone’s soul they choose to share, so they should reap the benefits. I’d love to focus on horror and science fiction, but we’re open to anything and everything! (My own novel is a combination of historical fiction and horror).
Pete: That sounds likes a fascinating blend, Claire. So, what excites you most about Australian speculative fiction?
Claire: There is such a massive market for Australian speculative fiction! I’ve been writing non-fiction for Aurealis since late 2015, and I love reading ‘The Year Ahead in Australian Speculative Fiction.’ It reminds me of the amazing talent in Australia, and keeps me in check with what people want to read!
There are many amazing writers in Australia, and I love that speculative fiction means more than just science fiction, fantasy, and horror – it’s everything in-between that writer’s might have felt wouldn’t fit anywhere, and it gives people hope their ideas and stories are wanted. One of my short stories ‘Yellow Death’ was deemed speculative fiction by the editor of Heater magazine, and I felt like I had tapped into something I had been working so hard to get to. Made me feel all warm and gooey on the inside.
I think the Australian Shadows Awards is also fantastic for speculative fiction. Yes, I’m biased, as I’m this year’s Award Director, but it really is an excellent chance to showcase all the amazing, talented stories produced by Australian writers. NZ might have Lee Murray, but Australia has Kaaron Warren! So there!
Pete: What are your own writing goals for the next year or so?
Claire: I need to release my debut novel, ‘Only The Dead.’ I can’t move on from it to something else until I release it. I write short stories in between, but I can’t seem to work on another novel! I’ve written two novels in the past that are god-damned awful, and I’d like to revisit them one day. But maybe I’ll burn them. It’s infuriating haha. But ‘Only The Dead’ will be out very soon. At the moment, I’m working with artist Shane K. Ryan on the cover, so when that’s done I’ll be able to start on the promotional side of things! (Shane also illustrated my eBook ‘Of Man And Woman.’ Check out his work, it’s amazing).
I’ll also be releasing ‘The Body Horror Book’ early next year sometime. Marc McBride-illustrator of Emily Rodda’s ‘Deltora Quest’- has come on board to illustrate a few chapters, however he can’t get stuck into the project until January. But that’s not really a setback, since I want everything to be perfect before it’s published. I’m hoping to enter it in next year’s Shadows Awards for Best Non-Fiction. Fingers crossed it’s worthy!
I also have two short stories in ‘Remixing The Classics,’ an anthology printed by the University of Queensland Writer’s Club. That’ll be out soon, which is exciting. My stories are horror versions of Peter Pan and Hansel and Gretel.
As for other things, who knows? I’m working on a story specifically for an anthology at the moment, so I have to get crackilackin’ and get it done! Life gets in the way. I wish it would move off the sidewalk and let me through!
Pete: Beef, chicken or vegan?
Claire: Vegan. Save a cow, eat a human.
Pete: You get dumped on a desert island and you can only take that one book, that awesome book, the one you could read over and over for years to come. What is it?
‘Black Foxes’ by Sonya Hartnett. It’s been my favourite book since I was a teenager. Sometimes I think all my characters have a bit of Tyrone Sully in them. I would cut off one of my fingers if it meant I could interview Sonya Hartnett. Joking! But maybe not.
Pete: Please respond to this statement: horror is not real literature
Your mum’s not real literature!
Seriously, though, horror is amazing. Horror can be philosophical, artistic, political….it can incorporate so many different elements. The world is a scary place, and horror often reminds us there is light within the dark, if only one knows how to turn on the light (and it’s one of those quirky Goosebumps book lights from the ‘90s!).
These interviews are purposefully short but occasionally I conduct one with someone I could talk with all day. Claire has interesting ideas, projects and experiences! If you want to connect with her, look her up on FB or at www.clairefitzpatrick.net.
And Claire, I speak for all of us when I say, “Get that novel published, dammit! I wanna read it!” 😉
- Interview with Peter Cooper
- Author Interview: Kevin Ikenberry, author of Sleeper Protocol
- Keith C Blackmore: 5 Questions & a Statement
- Devin Madson: 5 Questions & a Statement
- Sharon M Johnston: 5 Questions & a Statement
- Michael Pryor: 5 Questions & a Statement
- James Jackson: 5 Questions & 1 Statement
Sleeper Protocol is a fun and fascinating sci-fi adventure set in future America and future Australia. My review can be found here. I caught up recently with the author, Kevin Ikenberry, and fired some questions at him about writing, about himself and about his debut novel…
Pete: What are the origins of Sleeper Protocol?
Kevin: I first wrote Sleeper Protocol as a short story entitled “Walkabout.” It was about 8,000 words and focused on a particularly dystopian scene where my characters “leave” civilization and enter the frontier that’s become the central United States. When I sat down to outline the book, I crafted an opening where the protagonist wakes up on the shores of Sydney Harbor at a place called Mrs. McQuarrie’s Chair. I spent three and a half weeks in Australia when I was seventeen and I tell people all the time that I left a piece of my heart there.
Having this book begin and end in Australia just felt right, so to speak. As for experiences, there are a ton of them in this book that I’ve tried to write in. Living in Colorado and hiking frequently gave rise to a lot of the narrative. Near the end, the action takes place in Tennessee where I call home (even after not living there in almost twenty-five years.). Where the culmination of the journey comes together is at my family’s “ancestral” home. We call it “The Farm”and I remember tearing up the first time I wrote that scene and the following one as well.
The concept of him piecing together his memory from experiences is the critical element to the story – so bringing a lot of my own experiences into his point of view was challenging, but a lot of fun.
Pete: Why are you a writer?
Kevin: I can tell you that I am not one of those folks who say they wanted to be a writer their whole life. I wanted (and still would go tomorrow!) to be an astronaut. My decision to start writing science fiction in 2009 came, in large part, from my extensive background in space science education. Through teaching, I’ve been able to share my love for space with kids of all ages. Writing science fiction seems like a natural progression of that love. The idea that I could write stories and potentially novels seemed very far out there when I started, but now I know that I enjoy telling stories and I can’t see not writing. When I first had a character start talking to me, I had no idea what to do other than start to write. With the help of a great instructor, I found great friends and mentors as I delved into writing. I’m glad that I did.
Pete: What was the greatest hurdle to overcome in completing this project?
Kevin: I finished the original first draft of Sleeper Protocol in mid 2013 and decided to let it sit in the drawer for a few months before I went back to the manuscript. After a rewrite pass in September 2013, I decided to focus on a couple of other projects with the intent that I would return to Sleeper Protocol in March for a final polish and submittal. That’s when life got in the way.
In February 2014, I nearly died from an infection that attacked the skin on my right leg, shut down my kidneys, and put my heart in serious condition. After ten days in the hospital, I went home for a prolonged at-home care period. This should have been a blessing – a writer always wants more time to write and I had all I could handle. The problem was that I couldn’t write. I could barely do anything besides look out the window and try to come to grips with what had happened. After a couple of weeks, I reached out to Clarkesworld editor Neil Clarke who survived a massive heart attack three and a half years ago. Neil’s friendship and advice helped me get back to writing. In May of 2014, I started that final polish on Sleeper Protocol for submittal. Without Neil’s counsel and my team of beta readers, I might not have been able to make that happen.
Pete: As a writer, with a full time job and a family, how do you manage to get the work done?
Kevin: In all honesty, there are a lot of late nights. Being a night owl when it comes to writing is a good thing. After our kids go to bed, I have the chance to work on my writing. Some times are better than others, but it’s just a question of dedication. There are so many people who say “I could write a book if I just had time.” My response to them is to get busy writing. The only way I’m able to tell stories is to sit down and get them out of my head. It’s a question of dedication and discipline. If the story matters that much to you, you’ll find a way to get it down on paper or into the computer. That’s what I focus on. If you really want to do something, nothing can stop you.
Pete: What tips from your road to publication can you offer other writers?
Kevin: Sleeper Protocol had a contract offered on it from a different publisher before Red Adept Publishing signed it. I turned down that contract because I’d taken the time to consult with mentors. My biggest tip to anyone who will listen is simply to reach out to someone else if you don’t understand something. I know it’s not easy to do so, but in my experience, I’ve never had someone that I reached out to completely reject me. Writers, as a unit, understand that we are all in this together and everyone I’ve ever approached is willing to share their experiences. In this particular case, I had two NYT bestselling authors review the contract because it didn’t seem right to me, and it wasn’t right. Because I was brave enough to reach out, and they took the time to look over a bad contract, I saved myself a lot of trouble. If you don’t know – ask. Ask me, ask some one in your writing group, post a question on social media – there are a lot of people who’ve learned their lessons who will make sure you don’t have to do the same.
Pete: With which of your characters do you most connect? Least connect?
Kevin: Obviously, Kieran and I are very similar and while you might think that was very easy to write, there were times it was very difficult to put myself out of the equation and tell the story from the perspective of this character who is a lot like me but not me at the same time. Likewise, I can honestly tell you that writing from Berkeley’s perspective was very challenging. Connecting to my characters was really easy, mainly because they’d been talking to me for a couple of months before I started writing the original draft. All of them changed through the course of the drafts. Making connect to the reader is my greatest hope – I think I’ve done that.
Pete: What is your favorite book of 2015 and why?
Kevin: This is such a difficult question because I am very behind on my reading lists. I will say this, the best two I’ve read so far are Clockwork Lives by Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart and The Martian by Andy Weir. Clockwork Lives is a beautiful sequel to the novel (and Rush album) Clockwork Angels. The attention to detail in the book is amazing, especially the print layout and design. It’s a beautiful book. The Martian is everything a space geek like me loves, and Mark Watney is a great character. Andy Weir’s ability to create a thrilling story around the actual science that will get humans to Mars (and live there) is astounding.
Pete: Favourite paragraph from Sleeper Protocol?
Kevin: From Chapter Six…
I landed in Perth after sunset, following an “in-flight delay for orbital debris mitigation,” whatever that meant. The bright side was that instead of circling out over the ocean or something, we flew three complete orbits around the Earth. Given what I remembered about my childhood and wanting to travel in space, I should have been thrilled. By my standards, or those from my time, I was an astronaut. The reality was that I dozed for most of the trip. The view of Earth from orbit met every expectation, but the tranquility of it lulled me to sleep after just a few minutes. Because of the late arrival, I caught the last maglev train to Esperance and stepped out of the terminus to a pitch- black night and torrential rain. The briny smell of the ocean floated on the strong breeze, and it made me smile. The lights of the modest town lay below me, down a slope of no more than a few hundred feet, and its warmth filled me. There were no buildings taller than a few stories and not much light compared to downtown Sydney, which was at once disconcerting and comforting. Lightning flashed out to sea and lit the rough, curving coastline for a split second. All of it was perfect. I wondered what it meant to feel so at peace in a place that I’d never seen in my life. I could be happy here. I walked in the rain without a jacket, and my coveralls were soaked through in a matter of minutes. Finding food and dry clothing would be high priorities eventually but not yet. The cool rain hammered my skin and washed the last bit of the Integration Center’s smell from my clothes.
Pete: What’s next for Kevin Ikenberry?
Kevin: I’ve just concluded the first draft of Vendetta Protocol, the sequel to Sleeper Protocol. While I’m letting it rest, I’m gearing up for the release of my military science fiction novel Runs In The Family from Strigidae Publishing in the spring of 2016. I have another novel in discussions right now with my publisher. I’m working on a variety of projects and staying very busy. Hopefully, I’ll just keep on writing stories. That’s the plan.
Learn more about Sleeper Protocol here.
A talented writer and generous host of the Ward Room website, James Jackson is the energetic force behind a new zombie apocalypse series. He also serves as an outdoor survival instructor, and a Military Technical Advisor for several published authors. I enjoyed the first in his series and I thought I’d introduce him to you all by way of pitching five questions and a statement his way (my words are those in itallics) …
1. James, I notice a wealth of military knowledge in your writing. From whence does this wealth flow? I spent almost 20 years in the US Navy. During that time, strangely for a waterborne service, most of it was spent on land, shore duty. It was during that time I interacted with other US military units and several foreign nations’ military units. I’d like to think that experience serves my writing and that knowledge flows from there.
2. Can you tell us something of your creative process: what happens between the genesis of ideas and completed, polished projects? The ‘genesis of ideas’ is quite a statement. I don’t know how other authors get that ‘spark’ or ‘genesis’ moment, but for me it happens at the most strangest of times. I’ll be outside doing some project or sleeping and it hits me out of the blue. I keep notepads with me all the time so I don’t lose the idea. I’ve caught myself watching television and zoning out with some idea that who knows where it came from, but, damn. It’s good. I’m probably sitting on several years’ worth of books, not just the genre that my current project is, of material that fills notepads and notebooks. To get to a completed, polished project? That can take a while with my schedule, but its well worth the wait.
3. The Up from the Depths series: what’s it about and what’s the inspiration for it? Up From the Depths is about a global apocalypse that contains zombie-like crazy people. Yeah, there’s a lot that going around. Think 28 Days later, George Romero, Tom Clancy, and Michael Crichton then puke that up onto the floor and you’ve got a rough idea of what Up From the Depths is about. What makes it stand out, at least in my mind, is the accurate level of detail when it comes to the actions and reactions of the military characters within the story. The inspiration for the series came from several sources. The classic Dawn of the Dead by George Romero played a role as did the remake of that same film in 2004. If you’ve seen the remake, there’s a montage shortly after the female lead escapes her house. That montage plus being exposed to some truly awful books about a zombie apocalypse can be credited as the slap in the face for me to wake up and start writing Up From the Depths.
4. What would you say is a point of difference setting your series apart from other zombie series? That would be the level of detail and accuracy in weapons use and military procedures. That and I really strove to keep all the known clichés and stereotypes out of the series as much as possible. Not saying there aren’t any, but there aren’t as many. Does that make any sense?
It does make sense. I love the fact that this virus is unleashed maliciously. There is a conspiracy theory out there about the rich taking action in reducing the population of the planet’s poor to give them a bigger playground for themselves, so this played nicely on that.
5. What do you do for fun … apart from editing and re-editing like the rest of us? You mean there’s something more fun than editing and re-editing? For fun, I’m an instructor for outdoor survival and disaster mitigation.
Respond to this Statement: “It’s impossible to make a living as a writer in this day and age.”
Not sure how to respond to that statement. It would have to depend on what kind of lifestyle you currently have and what you plan to achieve. It’s possible to make a living but not right away. Don’t publish your first novel and quit your job the same day. If you’re dedicated to something and have a realistic goal, there’s no reason why you can’t reach it. Make a plan, work the plan. So, no, it’s not impossible to make a living as a writer in this day and age, you just need to work at it.
Readers, go google it!
The book is available here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/578399 and also at Amazon.
The blurb lies below…
Where will you be when the world ends?
What will you do to save the lives of people you love?
Follow the men of ODA-141, the Outlaws and the SEALs of Shark Platoon in this hard-hitting, real-world look at life before, during, and after an apocalyptic event.
In a world ravaged by a mutated virus survival is all that matters.
This epic novel of apocalyptic survival and terror begins as a sociopathic billionaire decides that mankind is the disease, and unleashes a virus to cleanse the earth. What he didn’t plan on was the side effects. The unbelievable scope of this classic tale encompasses monumental sequences of realistic, spine-chilling horror in a world inhabited by infected hordes of crazed flesh devouring zombies.
This is the way the world ended.
When Pete put this question to me, it took a bit of time in hospital for me to fully grasp it. The question wasn’t the cause of my medical issue, but laying there without much to do besides think and dream gave me the chance to realize that there are three ways that science (hard or speculative) has fueled my fiction.
1. Endless possibility.
We live in a time where major scientific advancements that will affect our future generation happen nearly every day. We may not hear of them for years, but they are out there. Whether it be a medical advancement in the treatment of a disease or a proposal for a hyper loop transportation system, we may not see the fruits of those labors during our lifetimes, but our children and their children will know them as the norm. Take a look around you.
When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, the idea of a computer in your hand was absurd. Computers during those days still took up portions of large rooms.
Or, consider that humanity went from the first powered flight in 1903 to the moon in 1969 and you’ll see what I mean. Imagining the progression of our current norms toward the future breeds endless possibility. We may get a portion of that future right based on what we know of the science now, or we may botch it enough that our future generations will read our work and laugh at our innocence.
I tend to look at our sciences today as a keyhole to the future. We cannot unlock the door, but our understanding of things now provide us a way to see into the future and what might be.
2. The occasional moment where your idea becomes reality (in a way).
Several years ago, 2009 in fact, I wrote a story entitled “Digger Girl” that took place on an asteroid converted for interstellar flight. The idea seemed logical to me. The heavy shielding necessary would mostly be in place, depending on the thickness of the asteroid in question. Propulsion would have been an issue, but the orbital mechanics of speeding up an asteroid to fall towards the Sun and receive a gravitational assist from several planets were sound. Attach a reaction control system to the beast and a theoretical propulsion system that could perpetually thrust the asteroid forward and a mission to proximal could take a couple of hundred years. The asteroid became a generation ship without the nasty business of lifting all of that mass to orbit.
Imagine my surprise late last year when a scientist postulated the same thing and it reached the press. For that brief moment in time, I knew what it must have been like for Clarke and others to have predicted something that became reality (in a way). To me, that’s one of the thrills of writing science fiction. Your dreams have a chance of being reality. To me, it doesn’t matter that this scientist proposed the same thing, and for all I know it was postulated a long time before 2009 (remember, all good science fiction stories have been told before).
That brief connection to a possible future made my day, and I hope to have many others before I reach the “clearing at the end of the path.”
3. Science is how we take destiny by the horns.
I’m inspired every day by some aspect of science, especially when I look at the collective mess we are as a species. Without waxing political, I worry about the future that my children are growing up into. We live in a world that still thrives on conflict to no end. Our world, the very ecosystem, is in chaos. This may be the cyclical nature of things or it very well could be manmade, but the argument is the same nonetheless. I am a firm believer in a statement from Tsiolkovsky that “the Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever.” Time is against us. The Sun is going to die. It doesn’t matter that it may be billions of years until then. We have a lot to do as a species before then, and I believe we will get there, but the goal must be to leave this planet behind.
Science provides the progress to change our basic human needs – longevity, better shelter and clothing, better foods. I try to look beyond the political machinations and global profiteering of our current society in the hopes that science has the impact it should, to take our destiny by the horns and propel us to the stars. I will never see it, but I can dream about a time when the world pulls together and all of humanity reaps the benefits versus a tender few. That motivates me to write.
In all, I tend to tell very human stories that hopefully reflect how science is a benefit to our ever-changing humanity. Science inspires me because it continues to move forward. It does not stagnate. There is always someone, somewhere, thinking and postulating and experimenting. Let us hope that never changes. If science stagnates, humanity will stagnate. Bringing a bit of science to the forefront reminds a reader how much that science has changed their lives. We take our technology for granted now, when a few decades ago, we had nothing of the sort. That progress came from science.
Think of where we can be in another hundred years. I know I do.
A talented writer and artist, Jason Franks is the energetic force behind comic series such as McBlack and Left Hand Path, as well as the novel Bloody Waters (which I am halfway through at-time-of-writing and absolutely loving). I’ve been lucky enough to pre-read the first two chapters of next year’s release: Shadowmancy which kicks butt…and I’m doubly lucky to belong to the same writing group as Jason.
I caught up with him recently and pitched five questions and a statement his way …
1. Can you tell us something of your creative process: what happens between the genesis pool of ideas and completed, polished projects?
Usually, an idea will roll around in my head for a while before I start writing. Unless I’m working on a commissioned project with a deadline, this process will usually continue for months, or even years. I let my subconscious do most of the work at this stage. Mass accumulates–more ideas adhere to initial thought–until there’s a story there. Then, suddenly, I need to get it out. I guess it’s like a kidney stone in that regard.
The joy is all in the first draft, for me. I like to write my way into the characters and settings and they often surprise me. I do not generally outline my stories, but I do almost always know where they’re going and I just strike out towards the destination.
Then, the long hard slug of editing and polishing. I’ve completed some of my more recent stories in four or five drafts, but I’ve been known to do 15 or 20 before I am satisfied. I am currently looking for ways to streamline this part of the process.
2. Apart from the pictures, what’s different about writing for comic/graphic novel and writing pure prose (short story or novel)?
It’s a very different discipline. You can’t really say ‘apart from the pictures’ because 90% of a comicbook IS the pictures. Even if you’re not drawing them yourself, you need to communicate to the artist how to visually tell the story–how to break it up into images. As a comics writer you may or may not contribute to page composition but you will usually control pagination and panel density, and those are they key elements in pacing. Learning to pace a comic with a fixed pagecount is very different from learning to pace a prose story.
Comic script has that increased overhead and requires more planning, but you don’t have to worry as much about polish–so long as your descriptions are clear to the artist your script does not have to be beautifully written. Copy that will appear on the comics page is only a tiny fraction of the writing. With prose every word needs to be perfect, which for me requires a lot more editing. Usually I will nail a comic script on the second pass.
Also, comics works tend to be shorter. You will usually have a limitation in the amount of page real estate available and that limits he amount of story you can tell. Detail belongs in the artwork.
3. McBlack remains your most popular comic work: what’s it about and what’s the inspiration for it?
McBlack concerns the metafictional adventures of Whiteface McBlack, a freelance thug. McBlack will take on any kind of dirty job: detection, skip tracing, sabotage, arson, murder–provided it promises the opportunity to shoot some dudes or blow up some stuff. This is me smashing genres together to see what breaks. In the first book, McBlack is hired by a dame to find her missing husband. He’s assigned the role of a Phillip Marlowe (hero of The Maltese Falcon), but his behaviour is closer to that of Angel Eyes (the villain from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). You’re expecting a noir mystery, but instead McBlack rides the story roughshod over tropes more familiar to the SF, fantasy, horror and western genres.
What was the inspiration? Well, I noticed how many independent comics writers go directly to The Maltese Falcon when they need a plot (“It’s the Maltese Falcon–but Marlowe is a Samurai!” “It’s the Maltese Falcon–but Marlowe is a Talking Cauliflower!”) and I decided I was sick of it–so I guess this was me over-reacting to that. (“It’s the Maltese Falcon–but Marlowe is a bodiless murderer with a grudge against the Fourth Wall!”).
The colour one-shot stories are discrete missions, in which McBlack takes on different modes of storytelling (video games; dreams) and different tools employed in comics (voice-over captions; thought balloons).
Lady McBlack, the new series, is a continuation of the main story–this time looking at romance in these genre stories. (Yes, really!)
4. How much of your own interests and experiences are in Bloody Waters? (My son has a guitar with a Floyd Rose Tremolo, btw, just like Clarice).
Well, I guess it’s fairly obvious that I’m a music nerd. I play the guitar–badly–but I’ve never been in a rock band. I’m interested in writing music, but I completely lack the desire to perform in front of an audience.
I’ve never tried to summon the devil, but I do have a particular interest in villain characters and Old Scratch is pretty much the logical endpoint of that line of inquiry, so he turns up quite a lot in my fiction.
I did play trumpet in various high school bands, so a lot of that stuff comes from life. I’ve spent a lot of time hanging around in guitar shops and reading guitar magazines and I know a bunch of people who have and do play in legitimate rock bands, so hopefully my descriptions of the gear and the music is reasonably accurate.
Aside from that, I guess you can see a bit of the creative artists’s wish fulfillment in there. I wish I was as good a writer as Clarice is a musician. I wish I had the kind of career she does. I wish I was as talented and driven and confident. I also wish I was as laid-back and patient and pleasant as Johnny. There’s a bit of me in all of the principle characters–and that most certainly includes Satan.
5. What can we look forward to in next year’s novel Shadowmancy (and what’s the title about anyway)?
Shadowmancy began as comic serial which was to run in my regretfully short-lived Terra Magazine. It’s a ‘dark urban fantasy’ about a damaged boy who is enrolled in a magicians’ Academy after his disgraced father is kicked off the faculty. It’s more Ursula Le Guin than Harry Potter–by way of Cormac McCarthy, maybe. This is not a book full of whimsical hijinks; it’s about damaged families and institutional power and coming of age and… well, it’s about magic. I wanted to take a deep dive into the discipline of a magician. The story is written in the first person, by a protagonist who has some pretty heavy duty baggage, so there’s a lot more introspection than spellcasting. I want to give the reader a taste of what it feels like to have power, but to yet be powerless. It’s not for children. I hope it’s not boring.
The title refers to magic that is based on the manipulation of shadows–literally, metaphorically, and all of the Jungian stuff in between.
Statement: “It’s impossible to make a living as a writer in this day and age.”
I don’t think it’s impossible, but I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult. During the years in which I was pitching Bloody Waters I noticed more doors in traditional publishing closing than opening and I think that continues to be the case as the big five struggle to come to terms with the evolving market. There are more opportunities than ever to get work out there, via small press and self-publishing, but that also means there’s more competition. I hope it is still possible to make a living as a writer and I wish I could–but I am certainly not at that point yet.
A true gentleman of the publishing world, Geoff Brown/G.N. Braun is an author, an editor, the irresistable force behind Cohesion Press and Cohesion Editing, as well as a prolific Facebook status-poster.
I caught up with him recently and pitched five questions and a statement his way …
Geoff, what made you a writer? (As opposed to a fireman or astronaut or short order cook).
I don’t think anything really made me a writer. I’ve always loved to read, and I’ve always written. When I was in high school, I did best in English classes, and my creative writing stuff always earned me high marks. I’ve always been a storyteller, whether vocally or writing things down, so I think I have always been a writer, and it just took over my life as I grew older.
What lead you to become an editor, in addition to writing?
I’m a grammar ninja. Always have been. The reading that I mention in the first answer was always a case of noticing the errors and typos in books while I read them. After I started getting published, I worked with editors and saw the job from the aspect of a writer. Then, I completed a full-time Diploma course at TAFE – Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing – and the editing side of things was something I just felt was natural for me. As anyone serious about their writing knows, there is little money to be made in books unless you are King or Patterson or Child, so the natural thing for me was to move into a field where there was money to be made while working with the things I loved the most – words.
Tell us about your last release as G.N. Braun. What was its genesis and the thing you’re most proud of?
Well, my only full-length release so far has been Hammered: Memoir of an Addict, and it holds a special place in my heart. It’s the true-life account of my early life as a substance abuser who mixed on the edges of criminality for many, many years.
It shows my history as a drug-user throughout the 80s, 90s and 2000s in Melbourne, Australia. It tells how I was first introduced to drugs in my mid-teens, the lifestyle I led while using and selling drugs – from marijuana through to speed and heroin – and how I finally gained the strength and conviction to get off drugs. Hammered is available from Amazon as a Kindle book (http://www.amazon.com/Hammered-Memoir-Addict-ebook/dp/B007F2851W) and in print (http://www.amazon.com/Hammered-Memoir-Addict-G-N-Braun/dp/0987159267) and on all the standard online sales points, including Apple, Nook, and Kobo. I’d read many memoirs of addiction. I loved A Million Little Pieces until I found out it was mostly rubbish embellished by the author. I struggled through The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx, mostly due to the fractured narrative set up in diary form. Best of all, I read William S Burroughs’ timeless memoir Junkie, his first published book. I fell in love with his writing. It was both dead and alive, just like I was. There were all the standard junkie tropes, but there was something more. An undercurrent of blandness and focus that only another junkie could relate to, yet put in a way that it would be somewhat apparent to readers of all stripes. It rang of my truth. I tried for the same subtext in Hammered. I’d like to believe I rang that bell.
I own a copy of that book and found it compelling. I gave it a 5 star review on Goodreads…Tell us about your publishing house. What inspired it?
I already had Cohesion Editing and Proofreading running, so it wasn’t too hard to incorporate the new direction into the current business. It really makes me feel good to put new and established authors out into the world, to help spread the word about great writers, either Australian or from another country. I wanted to show what I thought was great writing. We’re not in this for short-term gain. We offer some of the best royalty percentages in the business, and for me it’s all about the writers making as much as they possibly can, while still leaving us enough to cover costs and promotion of the books.
What annoys you in the publishing world?
I see it all the time, all over Facebook. The ‘author’ that claims to be an editor and then charges people for sub-standard work that does little to nothing to improve the manuscript they work on.
I studied full-time for two years at college level, gaining a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, and upon graduation was awarded two ‘Student of the Year’ awards, for Christ sake. I opened my own editing business halfway through the course, and it has built up to the point where I subcontract to a number of highly-skilled professionals. Yet I see all these untrained people calling themselves editors and taking money from people and offering no real expertise in the field. I look at their (usually amateurish) website, and I see no list of qualifications. At least, nothing that really applies to professional editing. It really galls me that so many people think that just because you can read and write it means you can also edit. For God’s sake, people, go and get some proper training and then come back.
Professional editors get trained and educated. Professional editors work so hard at improving their skills that they bleed sweat every single day learning the difference between tenses, the minutiae of grammar, the many and varied plot elements, characters, story arcs, and everything else that makes a great book. Editors constantly stay abreast of new skills and styles. Editors have an eye for design, an eye for voice, an eye for a unique narrative style, and they have qualifications to show this. Yes, there are some naturally-good editors, but they are few and far between. For the rest of us, the skills are learnt, every single day of our lives. Most of all, editors read as much as writers should read.
Just because someone can self-publish and open a Facebook page doesn’t make them an editor. And it never will.
Statement – please respond: The overabundance of sub-par (and poorly edited) novels and short fiction online nowadays makes it more difficult for readers to find and purchase quality fiction.
Apart from untrained editors (who contribute a lot toward this problem) my other bugbear in the publishing word is authors who rush through a novel, write the second draft after untrained beta-readers have given some feedback, and then upload to Amazon an unedited work that is full of typos and mistakes. They usually top it off with cover art that looks like a bad cut-and-paste job done in Microsoft Paint, or like someone has given a few pencils to their talented five year old child.
Every book needs an editor. Writers, no matter how great, need a new pair of (trained and experienced) eyes to look over their work. Writers see what they believe is there, yet editors provide the fresh eyes that see what really is there. No matter how great the writer, an editor, a good editor, will find the flaws, the problems, and the blind spots that the author can’t due to being too close to the story to see what is really needed to make the manuscript great rather than good. And get professional cover art, too.
I will say, however, that the abundance of bad cover art makes it easier for readers to sort out the good books from the bad. You always hear not to judge a book by its cover, but that’s what we do. It’s a fair assumption that an author who didn’t spring for a great cover likely didn’t spring for a great editor, either.
Geoff has kindly offered the following as prizes to eager readers! There are five ebook copies of Hammered (epub or Kindle), and five of Martin Livings’ Carnies (also epub or Kindle and published by Cohesion Press).
To win a copy of Hammered, post an answer to the following question in the comments section of this blog post: What’s the name of G.N. Braun’s first short story listed on his “bibliography”? First five correct answers win the prize.
To win a copy of Carnies, post an answer to the following question in the comments section of this blog post: In what year was Carnies originally published? First five correct answers win the prize.
Note 1: Don’t be a putz. Please. This is a competition in good faith. I decide which victors receive the spoils and I will do my best to be fair and just.
Note 2: Yes, you will need to click a few links and do a bit of “research” to find the answers. The links below will no doubt help you in your quest for knowledge.
As a writer, I often read as a writer (analysing, nitpicking, oohing-and-ahing and brilliant technique). Devin Madson’s Blood of Whisperers made me forget all that and just read for the sheer thrill of it. See my Goodreads review for more if you’re interested.
I caught up with Devin recently and assailed her with my usual five questions and a statement…
PETE: Blood of Whisperers is a stunning novel. How on earth does an author come up with something so true to the genre and yet so unique in a debut novel?
DEVIN: Thank you very much! The immediate answer is ‘um….’ There was never an intention to write something unique, no decision that I would be different. I’ve always just written the stories that came to me naturally – the characters that spoke to me and wouldn’t leave me alone until I had written down their tale. I think perhaps the unique way I learned to write and the fact that I read extensively outside the fantasy genre through my formative years might have something to do with it.
PETE: What was your “breakthrough” moment as a writer?
DEVIN: It wasn’t so much a moment for me, as a series of gradual realisations over a few weeks. I had been writing seriously for about seven years, ever since leaving high school, but I had never been to a class, never read anything that taught writing, never even met another author – I had learned to write in a vacuum, as it were, just me and my words. And there were LOTS of words. By the end of the seven years my writing was good, my ideas were good, but I had no concept of structure. Enter Sydney Smith – story whisperer extraordinaire. I drank in everything she ever had to say, but it wasn’t until I sat down to apply her teachings to my own work that everything started to piece together in my head, and from there I was able to make my own discoveries about story structure. That was the moment I was finally ready for people to read my work – after nine years of full time writing!
PETE: Which writer(s) have had the most profound effect on you and why?
DEVIN: What hard questions you ask! I don’t have a favourite author, especially not a fantasy author. I’m still looking for one. But in terms of authors that have affected me… two come to mind. Georgette Heyer and David Eddings. Georgette Heyer wrote mostly regency romances, very clever stories with very real characters, which is why I read them again and again when usually it isn’t my genre. I think I’ve learned a lot from her about characters. And David Eddings was the first fantasy author I read. I don’t think I write like him at all, but it was David Eddings who brought me to my love of fantasy in my late teens and I’ve been writing fantasy ever since.
PETE: What do you think of the trend toward self-publishing?
DEVIN: Like everything I think there are two sides of the coin on this subject. The good is that there are no gatekeepers and the bad is that there are no gatekeepers. It’s hard to argue that in many ways the current traditional publishing model is old fashioned and no longer a perfect fit for a society where immediacy is key. That being said, the fact that self-publishing allows anything and everything to go on the market for reader consumption has led to self-publishers having a stigma it’s hard to avoid. It isn’t a problem with the market being swamped with terrible books, because I trust that readers are smart enough to look at the book, read the blurb, glance inside and see if the story is for them, but the stigma means there is a whole section of the reading community who will never touch a self-published book no matter how good it might be.
All in all I think it’s an interesting time in publishing (everyone says that, I know, but it’s true!). The self-publishing movement is growing, and where it is done with proper professionalism I think that’s a great idea. It encourages competition, and in that situation the cream should rise. After all the majority of people still rely on word of mouth to choose which books to read.
PETE: That stigma is curious given that even Dickens self-published (arguably) his most popular book ever. So what’s next for you beyond the Vengeance trilogy?
DEVIN: I have a problem called ‘always wanting to write six things at once’. I don’t because I like to focus on something once I get started, but trying to decide which will be the next is quite hard. In the world of The Vengeance Trilogy, I plan to continue writing the story of the world in first a stand alone story that I will post for free on my website, followed by another trilogy to be released 2015. I also have a number of short stories in the works, some branching off from characters of The Vengeance Trilogy. One is the story of how Hope became a Vice, some years before the beginning of The Blood of Whisperers.
PETE: What’s your response to this statement? Every character (no matter how depraved/noble/bellicose/witty/thoughtful/etc) reveals something of the author themselves.
DEVIN: I hate to think what my characters say about me! I think in general I would agree to that statement, because all we really use to write our characters and our stories is ourselves, whether it’s consciously or unconsciously. But in some situations, with some authors, I sometimes feel there is more of what they WANT the reader to think of them as a person, rather than what they really are. When you’re not bleeding words onto a page and giving yourself to the story, you’re much more likely to get recycled cardboard cut-out characters, and those don’t say very much about their authors, at least not to me.
You can visit www.devinmadson.com for more about the author and her works including links to buying them.
MORE 5 QUESTIONS POSTS:
I have to admit, I’d never read or heard of Ronald Malfi before picking up the Kindle edition of Cradle Lake.
But I’m bloody glad I have now.
I’ve just finished the novel and thoroughly enjoyed it. Great fiction should not only thrill you, it should take you inside a character’s personal problems with empathy. And thrill you. Cradle Lake does both. I’ll definitely be reading more of his work into the future.
I caught up with Ronald recently and assailed him with five questions and a statement…
PETE: What did you read, growing up?
RONALD: I read everything I could get my hands on. Genre didn’t matter, the author didn’t matter. When I was about eleven, I found a box of old books in my grandparent’s rec room and spent the summer reading everything from Reader’s Digest condensed novels to Lolita by Nabokov. I cut my teeth on Stephen King with his fantasy novel, The Eyes of the Dragon, and later discovered the wonderful prose of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and the rest of the Lost Generation.
PETE: Tell us about Cradle Lake: what was its genesis? What are you most proud of in it?
RONALD: Cradle Lake started out as a subplot that was ultimately excised from my novel, Floating Staircase. I really liked the relationship between the husband and wife, and their back story with the miscarriages and the wife’s subsequent depression, but it didn’t really fit with the themes of Staircase. So I cut it out and worked on it as a separate project, which quickly took on a life of its own. My wife was pregnant at the time of writing it, so my mind was already a mess with fears of becoming a father for the first time, and all the things that could go wrong in pregnancy. I’m most proud of the relationship between the two characters, how the husband has become so obsessive about taking care of his wife that he loses sight as to whether he’s actually helping her or hurting her.
PETE: Exactly what’s engaged me the most in this novel. Where are you heading next in your writing?
RONALD: In May, my novel December Park will be released. It’s a coming-of-age novel about five teenagers growing up in the nineties who vow to stop a killer that’s murdering children in their hometown. It’s marketed as a thriller, but I feel it works just as well as a mainstream novel about childhood, friendship, and growing up. I’m very excited for this book to come out; it’s very personal to me.
PETE: What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
RONALD: This is a tough question. Advice is a tough thing, particularly in this business, where there is no sure way to success and everyone’s experiences are different. There is one constant, though: to succeed as a writer, you must read and you must write. Every day.
PETE: What are you “into” (reading/watching) at the moment that you think the whole world should be into also?
RONALD: I don’t watch a lot of TV, though when I do, I enjoy independent films, genre and otherwise. I have very little interest in what Hollywood is doing. As for reading, I continue to read everything I can get my hands on. I’ve recently read John Fowles’s The Collector and Herman Koch’s The Dinner, which was fantastic. I prefer fiction that challenges the reader, that is artful in its presentation and eschews the familiar tropes of specific genres. That said, I find myself reading horror fiction less and less nowadays, as much of it is formulaic and disappointing.
PETE: What are your thoughts on this statement? “Every character, no matter how noble/depraved/deranged/outrageous, reveals something of the author who created them.”
RONALD: By virtue of the craft, the author will always bring something of himself to the work he creates, to include the characters, but I think it’s presumptuous and somewhat simplistic to assume an author will either deliberately or subconsciously invite his own personal traits into these characters. Some authors do indeed use their characters as a pulpit to pronounce their own convictions, but I don’t think that’s most authors. I think it’s just the opposite—a good author will create real characters with real views about life that may or may not be completely in contradiction with the author’s.
Cradle Lake is available in paperback and ebook.
You can visit http://ronmalfi.com/ for more about Ronald’s other novels.
MORE 5 QUESTIONS POSTS:
“Someone will die so I can live. I’ve come to terms with that.”
So opens SLEEPER, a new YA novel by Sharon M Johnston. I am 39% through the e-book as I write this and loving it (I only review and interview authors whose works I genuinely enjoy).
I recently caught up with Sharon via Facebook and fired 5 questions and a statement at her. Here are her responses…
SHARON: Oh, to share the true answer to that would be giving away the twist at the end. It’s like a bomb goes off. What I can say is that I write speculative fiction and this is that in the truest essence. I speculated about two certain people were to meet and built the whole plot to allow these two people to meet and then the fall out from this meeting: “What if this person meet this person?”
Discussing it in non-cryptic terms, it’s about a girl, Mishca, who has a heart-transplant and then weird things start happening: constant nightmares, new superhuman abilities and seeing things that make her think she’s crazy. At the same time, altering facing death on the operating table, she decides to try and track down her birth parents. She tries hard to fight her freakiness and focus on her new boyfriend, Ryder. But that all falls apart when she goes to university and gets a bad case of love-at-first-sight with her university professor.
I’m not sure where exactly the idea came from. I like letting my mind wander and thinking of weird things. For example, my story Karma, which was runner up in the Australian Literary Review’s short story contest (which I’m now turning into a novel) came from the thought “What if there were people responsible for delivering Karma?”
PETE: I love “What if” questions… Do you or have you ever written for family members? If so, what was their response?
SHARON: I wrote my Basics of Life anthology short story GROWTH for my dad. He never read it as it was about his terminal cancer diagnosis and it was published after he died. I’m coauthoring a novel that I’m writing at the moment that’s based on a concept I came up with for my son. He has epilepsy and in the story the seizures are more like a superpower. He loves the concept and I’m excited for when he’ll get to read it.
SHARON: Holly Black has definitely had a huge impact on me. Her Curse Workers series helped me find my preferred writing style and understand writing from a male POV. Angela Slatter has been somewhat of a mentor to me, and edited SLEEPER (as well as coming up with the book name and series title!). She’s not only a fantastic writer, but a giving person who has helped me understand the industry and how to improve my characterisation.
PETE: What habits have served you well as a writer?
SHARON: I use alpha readers when I write and I have found that that most effective way to combat writers block and pump out words (yes, Stacey Nash, I’m getting that next chapter finished soon). I used to write regularly at the beach when my husband was a lifeguard. That’s a habit I miss as it was great to be unplugged and focused on the words. I also write multiple stories at once. This may sound odd, but it ensure that I don’t lose an idea. Quite often I get to 20K and then return to my main WIP. Then I use an alpha reader to help me whip the rest out.
PETE: How much of yourself is in your characters?
SHARON: That really varies. Like a lot of authors, my first character, Mishca, has a lot of my traits. But there’s virtually nothing of me in Justin (Karma) or Jenna (novel I’m currently querying. I have one character that is more of me than Mishca, which is Kaylee. She’s in a WIP which is kinda-of autobiographical. I’m trying something different with a retelling of my senior year as though that’s when my dad got his terminal cancer diagnosis. It’s a bit odd, like a faux-memoir. But writing is about experimenting.
PETE: Please respond to this statement: Australian horror-fantasy-sf writers need to write Australian stories set in Australia.
1. Because if we don’t, who will?
2. Because the readers around the world are thinking more globally and want to know about places beyond the US/UK boarders.
3. Because Australia is kick-arse interesting and needs to be shared.
4. Because we have a unique culture that fascinates people in other countries.
About the Author:
Sharon is a writer from Mackay in Queensland, Australia who has short stories published in anthologies and was also runner-up in the Australian Literary Review’s Young Adult short story contest with KARMA. By day she is a public relations executive and by night she writes weird fiction and soulful contemporaries while her husband, two sons and cat are fast asleep.
MORE 5 QUESTIONS POSTS:
I’d like to introduce you to the erudite and dapper Mr Michael Pryor – if you don’t already know him and his works. I’ve been enjoying his latest series The Extraordinaires this year. It was my pleasure to meet Michael at Melbourne’s recent Continuum convention where I found him to be a true gentleman and a very interesting man to listen to.
So. I’ve fired five questions and a statement at Michael. What follows are his responses…
With over 30 novels to your name, what would be the secret(s) to your longevity as an author?
MP: Longevity? I think it’s a matter of working steadily (every day, if possible), being alert for new ideas (I think everyone has ideas – I just grab them and write a story using them) and always aiming to write better and better.
Of your novels, what is your favourite and why?
MP: My usual response here is, ‘My latest – because it’s the freshest in my mind.’ That would make it The Subterranean Stratagem, which expands on and deepens the world of The Extinction Gambit, the first book of The Extraordinaires series. Having said that, I do have a deep and abiding penchant for Blaze of Glory, the first book of The Laws of Magic, because in it I was trying to do a number of things I’d never tried before (comedy/fantasy, Steampunk and a romance) and by the end of it I think I managed to do it.
Who would be YOUR current favourite 3 or 4 authors?
MP: Tim Powers. A supreme storyteller whose researching is first class and whose nose for the oddities of history is top class. Neale Stephenson. Erudite, esoteric and funny. Lois McMaster Bujold. She can do character like few others – deft, subtle and with the appearance of effortlessness. Dan Simmons. I’ll read anything he writes. Even his lesser works are great. Oh, and can I slip in Terry Pratchett? Because Terry Pratchett?
Where did the inspiration for The Extraordinaires come from?
MP: I’ve always been fascinated by magic, by sleight of hand. As a kid I read a lot about the history of magic and I loved the world of the Victorian/Edwardian stage with all the big names up in lights. The showmanship of Thurston, Hermann and Maseklyne was enchanting. The Edwardian era appealed to me as a rich and textured time, the beginning of the modern world in its advances in science and technology, where society was moving out of the Victorian strictures, as evidenced by the beginnings of the Suffragist movement and the rise of labour associations. I love the chance to play against the old-fashioned manners and morals, where courtesy and politeness were important. With the addition of a little magic and mystery, it was the perfect world for my particular brand of Fantasy. Thus, The Extraordinaires.
The Extraordinaires begins in London in 1908. This is, in some ways, the height of the Edwardian period. London hosts both the Olympic Games and the great Franco-British Exhibition and is still the centre of a vast and prosperous empire. Naturally, this is an irresistible backdrop to imagine a world that lies underneath such a well-organised and forthright society, a shadowy world that contains both the malign and the magnificent, a world that can be found behind unexpected doorways, beneath the streets and in those parts of the city that are unfrequented by upright citizens. This Demimonde – the half-world – intersects with the criminal underworld and the world of the theatre, where our young hero, Kingsley Ward, is hoping to make a success. The problem is, though, that he was raised by wolves and this upbringing unfortunately surfaces in times of stress. Howling and biting people during your stage debut is never a good way to start a theatrical career …
Advice to up-and-coming writers?
MP: I echo Stephen King. Read a lot and write a lot. Also – finish something! So many people have the beginnings of a dozen stories lying about. Finish one, and finish it properly, so it’s as good as it can be. Then start the next one and finish it, too.
Statement: Australian speculative fiction is enjoying its healthiest season yet.
MP: We certainly have many, many people writing it, that’s for sure. Gone are the days when I could count on the fingers of one hand those who were writing in this field. Now, if only it could get the recognition and respect it deserves from outside genre circles.
Michael’s work can be found in all good bookstores, with samples available on his website: http://www.michaelpryor.com.au/